Saturday, April 18, 2015

Hazelnut Sugar Cookies with a Touch of Chocolate

I have this thing for cookies, any kind of them!. As you may have noticed I already posted many cookie recipes and will continue to do so as they are easy to make and can be adapted to suit just about any taste. 
I am also a huge fan of nuts and at any given time, there's bound to be at least 4 or 5 types of them in my kitchen. I consume them as snacks or put their wonderful taste and texture to use in sweet or even savory recipes.

A year ago, I made a hazelnut and coffee cake and it was an amazing combination. Since then I wanted to incorporate hazelnuts into another recipe and that's how this recipe came about.

These cookies have a very deep and rich nuts flavor which goes along so well with the little amount of chocolate that the recipe contains.Any serious fan of the buttery and complex flavors of nuts, especially hazelnuts, should try this recipe.

And here's how you make it.
For the cookie dough:
  • 160 g soft butter
  • 40 g hazelnut paste
  • 40 g lightly toasted ground hazelnut
  • 1 tsp vanilla paste or extract
  • 1 small egg at room temperature
  • 390 g all purpose white flour
  • 10 g cocoa powder
  • 120 g brown sugar
  • dash of salt

First, combine flour, cocoa powder, hazelnut and salt and set aside.
In a bowl and on a low speed, mix the butter, sugar and the hazelnut paste until combined. Add the egg and vanilla and mix for a couple of minutes.
Start adding the flour mixture and mix. When all the ingredients almost come together, flip the mixture over your working surface and gently mix until the dough comes together.

Wrap the dough in plastic film, flatten into  a 1 cm disk and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.

On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough to about 3 to 5 mm in thickness. Cut the shapes you want using a cutter or a sharp knife, just pay attention that if the dough becomes soft put it back in the fridge for about half an hour. The number of cookies you might get from this batch of dough depends on the size of  the cutter you use or the size of the shape you desire , but in any case you will get lots of cookies!

Place your cookies an a baking sheet covered with parchment paper, and put them it in the fridge for at least half an hour. Meanwhile, heat your oven to 180C. Put the cookies in the oven for about 10 min, till they are just cooked through but not over-cooked.

It might seem tedious to move the dough in and out of the fridge many times, but doing so is needed to ensure the cookies are flat with no bubbles and will keep their shape once baked.

This recipe works really well if you love decorating cookies and you want to try a new flavor. I decorated few of these cookies and I added hazelnut aroma to the royal icing to compliment the flavor of the cookies. You can see the result below.

I also dipped some of the cookies in melted chocolate (any kind you want) and sprinkled some chopped hazelnuts on top. Finally, I sandwiched some with my favorite chocolate spread and that is Nutella, of course!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Torrijas, a Typical Spanish Dessert

Spain buzzes with so many recipes during Easter time, but if there is one that you will surely find everywhere it would be Torrijas or ¨Spanish French toast¨!

Although you may find the dessert in some places all year long, but it´s in the Lent season that you find it just about everywhere, either in caf├ęs, restaurants or in bakeries.

In modern times, many chefs have been really creative with this traditional dessert, adding more flavors to the basic recipe or making up fancy sauces to go along with it. However, the traditional version is still the Spaniards' favorite.This is a really simple recipe that requires only a few basic ingredients; you can't go wrong with it!

Now let´s make some torrijas. For 6 to 8 servings you need:
  • 1 baguette or torrija bread (it´s widely available in Spain but I'm not sure if it is easy to get by elsewhere)
  • 500 ml milk
  • 1 stick of cinnamon
  • A piece of lemon rind
  • 50 g sugar
  • 1 xl large egg or 2 small ones
  • A pinch of salt, dash of cinnamon and a bit of lemon zest for the egg
  • Olive oil for frying

For the honey syrup you need:
  • 3 tbsp of honey
  • 1 tbsp of brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp of water
First you need to cut the bread into 2 or 3 cm thick pieces. In a saucepan, combine milk, cinnamon stick, lemon rind and sugar. Let them simmer gently and once you can smell the cinnamon and lemon turn off the heat. Let the milk cool slightly and you´re ready to soak the bread pieces. While the bread is soaking, whisk the egg with the salt, cinnamon and lemon zest. You don't need to overbeat the eggs, you just wanted all the ingredients to be well combined.

When the bread has absorbed the milk, coat it in the egg mixture, fry the torrijas until golden on both sides!

Traditionally, the bread is fried in lots of oil, however, I didn't want the torrijas to be too greasy, so I used only two tablespoons of olive oil to cover the bottom of the pan. I wouldn't put less because you really need the oil to give the golden color that torrijas are known for.

Remove the golden pieces of bread from the oil and drain the excess on a paper towel.

Prepare in advance the syrup by simply combining all of its ingredients and letting them simmer over a gentle heat until all the sugar is dissolved into the honey. 

Serve the fried and drained torrijas with a healthy drizzle of the honey syrup. Adjust the amount of syrup to your liking!

Torrijas are great for breakfast, or a perfect companion for your afternoon coffee or tea! Do try this recipe and make it for your family or friends this Easter which I hope will be a very happy one for all of you.